Misk promotes entrepreneurship

Misk Global Forum brings on one platform youth, thought leaders and policymakers


Saudi Gazette

— In a move to promote the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector, Saudi Arabia has introduced new entrepreneurship licenses and will invite entrepreneurs to start companies.

This was announced on Wednesday at the two-day Misk Global Forum in a deal by the SME Authority, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) and the Economic Cities Authority (ECA).

“The new licensing initiative is designed to help build the private sector, particularly SMEs and move away from over reliance on oil revenues,” said Dr. Ghassan Al-Sulaiman, Governor of the SME Authority.

“This initiative, inspired by Vision 2030, will help Saudi Arabia attract the best minds in the world, transferring knowledge, expanding the economy, increasing the contribution of SMEs to the GDP and creating jobs for Saudis.”

Entrepreneurship was the main highlight of the 2nd edition of the forum where youth mixed in open dialogue with policymakers, decision-makers, thought leaders, innovators and world-renowned entrepreneurs.

Saudi Arabia’s youth today need to seize the opportunity to lead in creating a better future at a time when the Kingdom is embracing change at a rapid pace. This was echoed by various world-renowned speakers and leaders.

“Today our role, with the support and directives of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, is to provide you the environment, the infrastructure, and culture to go forward,” said the Minister of Communications and IT Abdullah Al-Swaha, who referred to himself as young like the majority of the Saudi population, during a speech addressing a hall packed with youth.

Your role is to seize this opportunity because the only constant thing today is change. We have the opportunity to keep up with advanced nations. This is a time for dreamers not doubters,” he said, adding, “We should be armed with knowledge, entrepreneurship and innovation.”

The ministry announced that it signed a partnership with Misk Foundation and the MBSC to adopt the top 30 local entrepreneurial ventures to “a rigorous program exposed to accelerators and joined with big powerhouses to set them up for success.”

Google›s vice president of cloud services Diane Green said Google would be working on training engineers.

“We very much would like to have large research groups. We already got engineers but we want to increase it as we bring digital tools as they collaborate and connect. It’s going to accelerate people’s understanding about what’s possible. But now we would like people here engineers to take the data, share data and start getting real insights about improving people›s lives and enterprises.”

The forum focused on entrepreneurship as one of its main themes, discussing the future of jobs and the economy.

“The need for entrepreneurship is not just a fad, it’s going forward,” says Bill Aulet, professor of Practice at MIT.

“In the US, 40 million jobs were created between 1980 and 2005. All those jobs were created by new entrepreneurial ventures and driven by innovation.

Looking at the demographics in Saudi Arabia, more people are going into the workforce and are going to need those jobs through entrepreneurial venture. They can’t depend on the government or on Aramco.”

Asked about the role MIT will have in Saudi Arabia, he said: “Our goal is to build the content and processes through our online platform and help academics here in the Kingdom to help bring entrepreneurship at another level. Like most other places, there’s a willingness by young people to become entrepreneurs but they still don’t have the skillsets. It’s a maturation process that’s going to work through the academic institutions and the entrepreneurial community. In the US, developing skills occurred over the past 20 years to building communities.”

Unemployment in the region has been at an all-time high which poses a challenge, according to Dana Shaddad, founder of Imtiaz, that works with governments and foundations in entrepreneurship.

“It’s important to figure out the skillsets they need to be relevant in the future,” she says. “Our future is changing with the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence, automation, and jobs don’t exist yet.”

The knowledge economy is a reality, says Pablo Sachez Santaeufemia, CEO and co-founder of Bridge for Billions. “The skillsets you have you can develop it and you need it for all jobs such as creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and team building.

“One of the things that stood out from the discussions is that access to opportunity is not the same for everyone. Opportunities need to be equal regardless of people’s socioeconomic background, gender, culture, and location.”

The announcements made at the forum are exciting, says Omar Hussain, entrepreneur and social media influencer attending the event. “Inviting entrepreneurs to operate in Saudi Arabia is amazing. They’re promised to get the same support as any Saudi startup so it will invite innovative entrepreneurs to come.”